Continuing our series of looking at the non-cladding aspects of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, we now move onto a key part of a passive fire safety strategy; flues and exhausts. A flue is quite simply a duct, pipe, or opening in a chimney to get exhaust gases from a fireplace, furnace, water heater, boiler or a generator out of the building.
Flues and chimneys, carrying hot combustion products out of buildings, can present significant health and safety risks if not installed and maintained correctly. If the risers and voids they are located in are not carefully designed, they can provide a route for fire spread. As more and more of the issues around the design, installation and inspection of large commercial and high rise residential buildings are emerging, this is yet another area that needs to be further examined.
BESA have been working with Poujoulat Chimneys, members of the British Chimney & Flue Manufacturers Association, to compose our latest Technical Bulletin, which covers flue and chimney installation and maintenance and best practice in this field.
Effective fire safety and protection means that compartmentalisation of a building is critical, especially in high rise blocks. Therefore, the integrity of compartments and fire walls has to be maintained and properly installed and any flue passing through a compartment wall or floor should have a fire rating equal to half that of the compartment wall or floor itself to prevent the spread of fire.
There are over 5,500 chimney fires in England, Wales and Scotland every year, with around 50% of these occurring between in January, February and March. The Government’s Fire Kills fire safety campaign is working to raise awareness of the issue, but it is difficult to gauge awareness amongst consumers of the importance of maintaining their heating systems, chimneys and flues.
The Grenfell tragedy has taught us that a lot needs to change if we are going to create a safe built environment. Hidden issues like flues may not be headline grabbing news, but are one of the many areas that we need to examine and fix.